Ahead of his upcoming film, The Old Man & The Gun, Casey Affleck spoke with the Associated Press about his work on the film, and also addressed the #MeToo movement that’s gripped Hollywood and beyond following last fall’s allegations of sexual misconduct against producer Harvey Weinstein and other prominent men.
Specifically, the Manchester By the Sea actor was asked about his decision to not present the Best Actress award at the 2018 Oscars (it’s traditional for the previous year’s Best Actor winner to hand out the honour), and told the AP that it was “the right thing to do just given everything that was going on in our culture at the moment.”
It’s also thought that Affleck’s decision to abstain from presenting was due to two 2010 sexual harassment lawsuits filed by two women on the set of I’m Still Here, which Affleck produced. Affleck has denied the allegations in the lawsuits, and both were settled out of court for an undisclosed amount of money, according to Time.
Affleck told the outlet he “had never had any complaints like that made about me before in my life and it was really embarrassing and I didn’t know how to handle it and I didn’t agree with everything, the way I was being described, and the things that were said about me, but I wanted to try to make it right, so we made it right in the way that was asked at the time.” Out of respect to the women’s privacy, he says he now wants to close the door on that chapter.
As for the #MeToo movement, the actor said he “learned a lot” from the public conversation, and it changed his perspective on the allegations.
“I kind of moved from a place of being defensive to one of a more mature point of view, trying to find my own culpability,” he explained. “And once I did that I discovered there was a lot to learn. I was a boss. I was one of the producers on the set...The cast was the crew and the crew was kind of the cast and it was an unprofessional environment and, you know, the buck had to stop with me being one of the producers and I have to accept responsibility for that and that was a mistake. And I contributed to that unprofessional environment and I tolerated that kind of behaviour from other people and I wish that I hadn’t.”
Affleck admitted his behaviour allowed for an unprofessional environment for which he apologised, and now he’s ready to make changes moving forward — ones that will hopefully help the entire industry.
“In this business women have been underrepresented and underpaid and objectified and diminished and humiliated and belittled in a bazillion ways and just generally had a mountain of grief thrown at them forever,” he said. “And no one was really making too much of a fuss about it, myself included, until a few women with the kind of courage and wisdom to stand up and say, ‘You know what? Enough is enough.’”
While he cedes the majority of the conversation to the women who are already leading it with organisations like Time’s Up, Affleck stresses he’s here to help.
“I know just enough to know that in general I need to keep my mouth shut and listen and try to figure out what’s going on,” he added. “And be a supporter and a follower in the little, teeny tiny ways that I can.”